Archive for the ‘Russia’ Category

Russia’s search for an identity

By Masha Lipman for the Washington Post
Tuesday, November 3, 2009

BTC- Hindsight is 20/20. It also tends to mellow with age and develop an alluring golden aura where power is recalled in retrospect. Stalin era Russia, became the international example of totalitarian establishment which imperiled and murdered it’s citizens. These citizens had no civil liberty, privacy or identity separate from the State. Everyone and everything was property of the State.

MOSCOW- On Friday, as Russia recognized its annual commemoration of political prisoners, President Dmitry Medvedev published a videoblog in which he condemned Joseph Stalin’s crimes and called on the nation not to forget about past political repression or its victims. Medvedev called Stalin’s repression “one of the greatest tragedies in Russian history” and expressed concern that “even today it can be heard that these mass victims were justified by certain higher goals of the state.” He said that “no development of a country, none of its successes or ambitions can be reached at the price of human losses and grief.” His statement, which led the state-controlled television news, was sharply at odds with official rhetoric of the past decade.

Medvedev’s address may have sounded radical, but many here are skeptical that the president’s words will actually bring change. The number of alarming signals of Stalin’s rehabilitation is growing. And in general over the year and a half of his presidency, Medvedev’s often well-intended rhetoric has not been matched with policy.

But it would be wrong to dismiss the speech and conclude instead — as observers at home and abroad sometimes do — that Russia has made a definitive turn “back” toward the Soviet Union and an admiration of Stalin. In fact, perceptions of Stalin are conflicted, and this conflict reflects Russia’s attempts — very feeble, so far — to reinvent itself as a modern nation. In December, Stalin came in third in a TV station’s poll of greatest Russian historical figures. Contest organizers are rumored to have tinkered with the results after discovering that the man who masterminded the extermination of millions of his compatriots actually finished first.

Yet the peak of Stalin’s terror is also recognized for what it was. In 2007, 72 percent of respondents told the Levada polling agency that the repression of 1937-38 were “political crimes that can’t be justified.” The day of remembrance of political repression, officially introduced in 1991, is not marked by major national events, but on Thursday, just outside the infamous Lubyanka building, the KGB’s headquarters and prison, the names of Stalin’s victims were read for 12 straight hours by any who wanted to participate. Other commemorations were staged elsewhere in Russia.

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